Saturday, March 07, 2009

CableCard Diagnostic Tool for Windows Media Center

Getting CableCard for your Windows Media Center?  Well, plan on a few possible "bumps" in the process as its not always the easiest install in the world.  CEPro has pointed out a great Digital Cable Tuner Diagnostics tool that will be shown off at the Electronic House Expo next week.

If you're interested, read more at CEPro

via Engadget

GeekTonic Week In Review: March 7, 2009


It's been another busy week at GeekTonic.  We've been putting the Kindle2 through the paces, and trying out lots of new HTPC stuff.  In case you missed anything from the past week, here is a summary of the past week's news and stories on GeekTonic.

Check out the GeekTonic Media Gadget Showcase - Be sure and sign up for the Gadget Showcase at GeekTonic.  Get started by joining the GeekTonic Flickr Group and adding photos of your media gadgets and Media Setup photos for a chance to win Amazon Gift Certificates and more.

Week In Review:


Phew!  So that's a wrap for this week. 

Here's a sneak peek at what's on tap for the coming week:

  • Kindle 2 Reviews - Shelly (my wife) has had her review finished for days so after a long week at work, I'm finally putting the finishing touches on my review.  Both will be published by Monday.  There are many Kindle 2 reviews out by now, but none will come from our unique perspectives.  I'm the gadget fanatic fascinated by the new technology and my wife is the avid reader who as a teacher has a very interesting perspective on the Kindle technology.  Don't miss these reviews.
  • Kindle 2 tips and tricks - if you have a Kindle, you're going to want to check these out.  I've been compiling all of the little hidden tricks, hacks and keyboard shortcuts that I'll be sharing over the next couple of weeks.
  • Windows Media Center versus SageTV Media Center Roundtable Podcast.  I'm teaming up with a couple of guys for a podcast episode that will focus on VisaMC (and Windows 7 MC) compared to SageTV.  This one is going to be fun for all and a must-listen for HTPC enthusiasts.
  • More Media Gadget Goodness - lots more HTPC and media gadget news, reviews and discussion at GeekTonic coming this week!
Stay tuned for more in-depth content for Media Gadget Fans at  If you’re in to the Twitter thing, be sure and follow me on twitter under the name GeekTonic.  Thanks for Reading GeekTonic!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Netflix New Watch Now Picks for the Week - Episode 8

Friday has arrived again which means it's time for the GeekTonic "Netflix Watch Now Movies Worth Watching" feature.
If you're looking for some inexpensive entertainment, Netflix's iconmovie streaming service is a great place to start.  All you need is at least a one-out-at-a-time Netflix subscription and a Netflix Watch Nowicon Playback device or compatible browser.  Each Friday, I'll be highlighting a selection of newly added Netflix Watch-Now titles you can check out - I'll try to screen out the worst of the bunch & just leave the better quality ones or at minimum some of the "broader appeal" titles.
(Disclaimer:  Not all of these will appeal to everyone - of course) 

Altered States

Harvard scientist Eddie Jessup's (William Hurt) mind-altering experiments on himself, involving a hallucinatory drug and an isolation chamber, get out of control when his handiwork shuttles him back and forth on the evolutionary spectrum -- from human to ape-man. Equal parts sci-fi actioner, 1960s psychedelic trip and farce, the film was based on a Paddy Chayefsky novel and received Oscar nominations for music and sound. Blair Brown co-stars.

Micki and Maude

TV reporter Rob Salinger (Dudley Moore) is so lucky he's about to become a father ... to babies born to two different women. With his marriage to lawyer Micki (Ann Reinking) unraveling due to their hectic careers, Rob starts up a dalliance with Maude (Amy Irving), a cellist. When Maude announces she's pregnant, Rob decides to divorce Micki; but when she returns from a trip and says she, too, is expecting, he tries to juggle both relationships.


A mischievous French schoolgirl named Madeline (Hatty Jones) tries to save her boarding school from the real estate market, but finds it difficult to convince the building's owner (Nigel Hawthorne) not to sell. A straight-laced schoolmistress (Frances McDormand) tries her best to keep Madeline -- who uses her smarts to discourage prospective buyers -- out of trouble. Based on the popular children's books by Ludwig Bemelmans.

St. Elmo's Fire

Best friends and recent Georgetown grads Jules (Demi Moore), Billy (Rob Lowe), Wendy (Mare Winningham), Alex (Judd Nelson), Leslie (Ally Sheedy) and Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) struggle with the newfound responsibilities of life in the real world in this classic Brat Pack drama from director Joel Schumacher. The group copes with drug addiction, infidelity, unrequited love and ennui while they frequent their favorite college bar, St. Elmo's Fire.

As Good as It Gets

When acerbic, reclusive and obsessive-compulsive author Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) lets stressed-out single mom and waitress Carol Connelly (Helen Hunt) and gay neighbor Simon Bishop (Greg Kinnear) and his dog into his life, profound changes await them all in this touching dramedy. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay, the film won Oscars for Nicholson's and Hunt's heartfelt performances.

Twilight Zone: The Movie

Based on Rod Serling's hit TV series, this anthology features four tales of fantasy and horror. A bigot (Vic Morrow) experiences prejudice; a man (Scatman Crothers) with special powers helps the elderly regain their youth; a woman (Kathleen Quinlan) discovers a town controlled by an odd child; and a passenger (John Lithgow) sees something horrifying on the wing of his plane. John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller direct.

The Red Badge of Courage

John Huston's classic film adaptation of the 1895 Stephen Crane novel, set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, ponders the feelings of anxiety and finally outright fear in a boy preparing for battle. Henry (Audie Murphy) begins losing his illusions of heroism during his first skirmish, and after witnessing his friend's death and receiving an accidental wound from a retreating soldier, he comes to terms with the realities of warfare.
Get Carter

When his brother is killed in an accident, cold-blooded gun for hire Jack Carter (Sylvester Stallone) returns home to make peace with his past. But when evidence of foul play surfaces, Carter's mission becomes one of retribution rather than redemption. Miranda Richardson, Rachel Leigh Cook, Mickey Rourke and Michael Caine (who starred in the original production) lead the supporting cast in this remake of the classic 1971 crime thriller.
A Farewell to Arms

Adapted from Ernest Hemingway's World War I novel, this drama centers on American soldier Lt. Frederick Henry (Rock Hudson). While serving in the Italian Army, Henry has an affair with nurse Catherine Barkley (Jennifer Jones), and she becomes pregnant. The two lose touch, and Catherine is certain Henry's moved on to greener pastures. But he manages to track her down in Switzerland and arrives at her hospital bedside to find her clinging to life.

Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd

This wacky prequel to the 1994 blockbuster goes back to the lame-brained title characters' days as classmates at a Rhode Island high school, where the unprincipled principal (Eugene Levy) puts the pair in remedial courses as part of a scheme to fleece the school. Derek Richardson and Eric Christian Olsen star as the cretinous duo, with Mimi Rogers, Cheri Oteri and Luis Guzmán along for the wild ride.
The Drowning Pool

Private eye Lew Harper is called away from his Southern California haunt to the Louisiana bayous on what he thinks is a standard blackmail case. He arrives to find it involves an old flame (Joanne Woodward) and her sex-crazed daughter (Melanie Griffith). Suddenly, things are not as they first appeared. Paul Newman reprises his role from Harper as a "new kind" of private detective, a character taken from Ross Macdonald's hard-boiled crime novels.
Pride and Prejudice
With Laurence Olivier playing the smoldering Mr. Darcy and Greer Garson portraying the strong-willed eldest Bennet daughter intent on landing him, the sparks fly in this lively adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel. Maureen O'Sullivan, Ann Rutherford, Heather Angel and Marsha Hunt play the other four Bennet sisters -- all of whom their status-conscious mother (Mary Boland) is eager to marry off in this Oscar-winning comedy.
Get Carter
After learning that his brother has died under mysterious circumstances, London gangster Jack Carter (Michael Caine) heads to his hometown of Newcastle, England, in search of revenge. Once there, Carter tangles with the local mob boss, a porn star and various other colorful local characters. Directed by Mike Hodges (Croupier, Flash Gordon), this classic action-thriller depicts a grim and brutal world.

The Animatrix

Straight from the creators of the groundbreaking Matrix trilogy, this collection of short animated films from the world's leading anime directors fuses computer graphics and Japanese anime to provide the background of the Matrix universe and the conflict between man and machines. The shorts include Final Flight of the Osiris, The Second Renaissance, Kid's Story, Program, World Record, Beyond, A Detective Story and Matriculated.

With Fred playing a psychoanalyst and Ginger as his besotted patient, this Astaire-Rogers vehicle is as much screwball comedy as it is musical. When patient falls in love with doctor, that doctor -- who's best friends with said patient's fiancé -- hypnotizes the patient to convince her otherwise. Much silliness and a smattering of dance numbers ensue (including one set to Irving Berlin's Oscar-nominated "Change Partners and Dance with Me").
The Magnificent Seven

Fed up with being brutalized and impoverished because of outlaw raids led by a merciless brigand (Eli Wallach), the besieged citizens of a small Mexican town hire seven American gunslingers to stave off the marauders once and for all. Badass Yul Brynner heads the band of mercenaries, which includes Hollywood luminaries Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn and Robert Vaughn. Elmer Bernstein penned the film's unforgettable score.
Blue Streak

Jewel thief Miles Logan (Martin Lawrence) returns to his hiding place after a jail stint -- only to find that his booty is buried under a newly constructed Los Angeles police station. Posing as a cop in order to get the loot, Logan is assigned a rookie partner (Luke Wilson, a perfect foil for Lawrence's comic antics) who could be a huge liability. Director Les Mayfield serves up this fresh, fast-paced twist on the buddy-cop formula.

The Story of Qiu Ju

Gong Li delivers a superbly nuanced performance as the titular heroine in director Yimou Zhang's droll take on the absurdities of bureaucratic impotency. Set in a remote Chinese province, the film follows pregnant peasant Qui Ju on her resolute quest for justice after the village elder kicks her husband in the family jewels. Merely seeking an apology from the stubborn chief, Qui Ju soon gets caught in the cogs of an exasperating legal system.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil

Wally (Richard Pryor) is blind; Dave (Gene Wilder) is deaf. When a man is murdered outside the newsstand where they work, the police collar these two unlikely buddies as the main suspects. Wally and Dave are sprung from jail by Kirgo (Kevin Spacey) and Eve (Joan Severance), two criminals posing as lawyers who certainly have something other than their clients' best interests in mind. Arthur Hiller directs this lighthearted comedy.

For Keeps

Molly Ringwald heads the cast as Darcy Elliot, an ambitious teen with big plans for college and a career in journalism -- until she ends up pregnant in this modern morality tale from director John G. Avildsen. Opting to keep the baby, Darcy and her boyfriend (Randall Batinkoff) marry, but will a host of pressures -- including school, parenthood and a stack of bills -- break up the young family? Miriam Flynn plays Darcy's intrusive mother.
A Few Good Men

When cocky military lawyer Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and his co-counsel, Lt. Cmdr. JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore), are assigned to a murder case, they uncover a hazing ritual that could implicate high-ranking officials such as shady Col. Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson). Director Rob Reiner's probing drama earned four Oscar nominations, and Nicholson's line, "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!" became a '90s catchphrase.

La Femme Nikita

Internationally acclaimed director Luc Besson delivers the action-packed story of Nikita (Anne Parillaud), a ruthless street junkie whose killer instincts could make her the perfect weapon. Recruited against her will into a secret government organization, Nikita is broken and transformed into a sexy, sophisticated "lethal weapon." Later remade in the United States as Point of No Return, starring Bridget Fonda.

Hope and Glory

This Oscar-nominated film set in London depicts World War II as experienced by 7-year-old Billy (Sebastian Rice Edwards). Wartime thrills the imaginative Billy, whose supportive mother (Sarah Miles) tries to keep the family strong as the bombs increase. Although Billy's sister (Sammi Davis) suffers heartbreak and the family home is wrecked, director John Boorman's dramedy manages to limelight the bemusing aspects of everyday life during wartime.

A River Runs Through It

Director Robert Redford narrates this nostalgically American true story of two Montana brothers whose fly-fishing symbolizes their lives. The older brother (Craig Sheffer) makes plans and works hard, while the younger (Brad Pitt) does as he pleases and follows his gut; both struggle to live up to their father's high standards in fishing and morals. This character drama clinched an Oscar for Best Cinematography and two other Academy nominations.
From Here to Eternity
The date which lives in infamy lives on in this gripping adaptation of James Jones' novel about Army life in Hawaii in the idyllic days just before December 7, 1941. Eight Oscars include Best Picture, Screenplay, Supporting Actress (Donna Reed) and Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra). Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr rolling around in the waves and sand ranks as one of the hottest love scenes in screen history.

A Soldier's Story

Racial tensions flare in this gripping drama set in Louisiana at the end of World War II. When Army attorney Capt. Davenport (Howard E. Rollins Jr.) is sent to Fort Neal to investigate the murder of a black sergeant, he faces a mystery much more complex than he'd imagined. Also starring Adolph Caesar and directed by Norman Jewison from Charles Fuller's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, the film was nominated for three Academy Awards.

Wild Things

When guidance counselor Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon) rejects the advances of teen-socialite Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards), she accuses him of rape. In short order Sam's suspended by the school, rejected by the country club, and fighting to get his life back. Bill Murray plays an unscrupulous lawyer; Theresa Russell plays Kelly's mom; and Neve Campbell is perfect as a disturbed teen in a tale that leaves viewers guessing until the bitter end.

The Deep End of the Ocean

Michelle Pfeiffer is ferocious in the role of a desperate mother whose 3-year-old son disappears during her high school reunion. Nine years later, by chance, he turns up in the town in which the family has just relocated. Based on Jacquelyn Mitchard's best-selling novel (an Oprah book club selection), the movie effectively presents the troubling dynamics that exist between family members who've suffered such an unsettling loss.

Family Business

Looking to net a cool million by pinching some biological research vials from a lab, Adam McMullen (Matthew Broderick) recruits his grandfather, Jessie (Sean Connery) -- an unabashed lifelong criminal -- to help with the high-stakes heist. Meanwhile, Adam's father (Dustin Hoffman), once a chip off the old block, wants no part of the scheme but soon finds himself pulled back into Jessie's world to keep an eye on Adam in this comic caper.
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

The fisherman with a hook is back in director Danny Cannon's chilling sequel. Unfinished business with coed Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) brings the murderer to the Bahamas to terrorize her and her friends, Karla (Brandy Norwood), Tyrell (Mekhi Phifer) and Will (Matthew Settle), during a vacation. Can Ray Bronson (Freddie Prinze Jr.), who survived a bloody attack alongside Julie two summers ago, get to the island in time to save everyone?
Someone to Watch Over Me
In this brooding thriller directed by Ridley Scott, the life of wealthy socialite Claire Gregory (Mimi Rogers) becomes endangered after she witnesses a mob murder. Happily married New York City cop Mike Keegan (Tom Berenger) is assigned to protect Claire and takes up residence in her home while she waits to testify. When a romance develops between the mismatched pair, Mike's marriage to Ellie (Lorraine Bracco) is threatened.
Pork Chop Hill

Based on an ex-soldier's eyewitness essays, this epic film harshly and realistically depicts one of the Korean conflict's bloodiest and most famous battles. With peace negotiations being conducted nearby, Lt. Joe Clemons (Gregory Peck) and his men must take Pork Chop Hill to illustrate America's resolve. The topnotch cast includes Robert Blake, Rip Torn, Martin Landau, George Peppard, Gavin MacLeod and Harry Dean Stanton.

Immediate Family

The Spectors are successful, live in a beautiful home and are still in love. But all Michael (James Woods) and Linda (Glenn Close) want is a baby. Faced with fertility problems, they decide to help pregnant Lucy (Mary Stuart Masterson) and her boyfriend, Sam (Kevin Dillon), a teenage couple completely unprepared for parenthood. The plan is for the Spectors to adopt the baby when Lucy gives birth … but the situation isn't quite that simple.

Les Miserables

During World War II, illiterate Henri Fortin (Jean-Paul Belmondo) helps Jewish lawyer André Ziman (Michel Boujenah) and his family flee to Switzerland. Along the way, Ziman reads from Les Misérables, and Fortin begins to see himself as the book's hero, Jean Valjean. Victor Hugo's classic novel served as the inspiration for director Claude Lelouch's epic film, winner of the 1996 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Noises Off!

Theater director Lloyd Fellowes (Michael Caine) is told he must bring a British hit play to the American stage with a cast including a feature actor (John Ritter), a washed-up star (Carol Burnett), a vacant leading man (Christopher Reeve), a blond bombshell (Nicollette Sheridan) and a besotted character actor (Denholm Elliott). It seems like a smash hit … until the backstage drama threatens to eclipse what's happening in front of the curtain.


Emma Bolger shines in the title role of this British retelling of the classic children's tale about a high-spirited orphan sent to live with her crusty grandpa (Max von Sydow) in the idyllic Swiss Alps. But no sooner has Heidi settled in and begun to melt her grandfather's icy heart than she's whisked away to be a companion to a crippled girl (Jessica Claridge). The supporting cast includes Geraldine Chaplin as the aptly named Miss Rottenmeier.

The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps

Get ready for some big laughs: America's favorite portly professor, Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy), is back … and getting married to teaching colleague Denise Gaines (Janet Jackson). Unfortunately, destructive doppelganger Buddy Love is back, too. And he's after a revolutionary youth serum the professor has squirreled away in the family home, guarded by the entire Klump clan. Question is, has Buddy met his match?

The Governess

Rosina (Minnie Driver), a young Jewish woman in 1840s England, must find a job after her father dies. Hired as a governess by the Cavendish family, she travels to their Scottish estate, where she quickly becomes involved in an intense affair with Mr. Cavendish (Tom Wilkinson). Sandra Goldbacher directs this moving portrait of consuming love that centers on a religious and emotional struggle against propriety.

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle

When Boris (Jason Alexander), Natasha (Rene Russo) and Fearless Leader (Robert De Niro) take over numerous television networks with the goal of hypnotizing American viewers, young FBI investigator Karen Sympathy (Piper Perabo) tries to stop them with the help of sharp-tongued Rocky and dim-witted Bullwinkle. John Goodman, Carl Reiner, Randy Quaid, David Alan Grier, Janeane Garofalo and Billy Crystal co-star in this mixed live action-animated comedy.

Forever Young

In 1939, the love of Daniel's (Mel Gibson) life, Helen (Isabel Glasser), falls comatose after an accident. Grief-stricken, he agrees to be frozen alive in scientist Harry's (George Wendt) cryogenics experiment in the hopes that when he's thawed, Helen will be recovered. Some 50 years later, two kids revive Daniel, leaving him to cope with society's developments -- and having to find Harry and Helen. Jamie Lee Curtis co-stars.

Never Back Down

When a quick-tempered teenager (Sean Faris) moves to a new town and faces the challenges of attending a new high school, he seeks solace in an underground fight club, where he's taken under the wing of a mixed martial arts expert. Employing nonstop tension, inspiring training sequences, gripping fight scenes and a pulsing soundtrack, this film will amp up martial arts practitioners and enthusiasts alike.

First Kid

Sinbad stars as wild and amusing Secret Service agent Sam Simms, who is assigned to guard Luke (Brock Pierce), the bratty 13-year-old son of the president of the United States (James Naughton). Things go well until the two must foil an assassination plot against Luke's father. Zachery Ty Bryan, Lisa Eichhorn, Blake Boyd, Erin Williby and Timothy Busfield co-star in this lovable comedy. David M. Evans directs.

Dawn of the Dead

Based on the George Romero 1979 gore classic, this remake takes place as the United States is overrun (after a plague) by millions of corpses who walk the earth as cannibalistic zombies. A small group of survivors, including a nurse (Sarah Polley) and a police officer (Ving Rhames), try to find shelter within a massive shopping mall. But the zombies have a kind of sense memory and start arriving -- in droves -- for a shopping spree.


When a freighter is viciously attacked in the Pacific Ocean, a team of experts -- including biologist Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) and scientists Elsie Chapman (Vicki Lewis) and Mendel Craven (Malcolm Danare) -- concludes that an oversized reptile is the culprit. Before long, the giant lizard is loose in Manhattan, destroying everything within its reach. The team chases the monster to Madison Square Garden, where a brutal battle ensues.

Other New Netflix Streaming Movies for this week:

That's it for this week.  Let us know in the comments if you loved or hated any of these.
Remember, you can now subscribe to the GeekTonic Netflix Watch Now Movie Recommendations RSS Feed

Elisa Media Center Now Available for Windows

The open source media center app, Elisa Media Center has been available for Linux for a while now.  This week they pushed out an update of Elisa Version 0.5.30 to allow the app to run on Windows as well.

Elisa Main Menu

Chagelog for Elisa 0.5.30:

Elisa Music

The Elisa media center program has the familiar HTPC functions such as music, movies and photos as well as many plugins for online media such as Shoutcast, YouTube, Flickr and Yes fm.


Here's a video of the Elisa HTPC software being controlled with a Wii Remote Control.

The interface reminds me of Front Row for Apple.  Pretty cool and it's free so worth checking out.

Read More About Elisa


via DownloadSquad

Boxee Update: New Version & Hulu Lives On via RSS

The Boxee team pushed out a new version of the popular Home Theater PC (HTPC) software, Boxee today.  This version includes an "App Box" which is their version of an Application Store, an RSS reader optimized ofr video feeds such as Hulu, Google Video, YouTube and many others, and finally an auto-update feature.  The update is for the Mac, AppleTV and Windows versions with a Linux update planned for a later date.

Hulu Still Won't Allow the Hulu App on Boxee

The bad news is that they have again met with Hulu representatives and the result was disappointing to say the least.  Here's what the Boxee team said on their blog today:

There is also an update with regards to our meetings with Hulu and their content providers below.  Sadly, they weren't ready to work with us yet.  When they are, we look forward to bringing a more robust version of the Hulu application back to boxee with their help.

If it wasn't obvious before, it should be now - Hulu has no intention of working with or even allowing third parties to create an alternative interface or allow the viewing of Hulu on a TV (via HTPC).  Its extremely unfortunate that the industry isn't ready to evolve the TV viewing experience in this way, but they're obviously trying to protect the control and more importantly revenue stream they have with their current agreements with cable and satellite companies.

Hulu Still Accessible in Boxee - via RSS

Now for the "better" news.  Given Hulu's resistance to the Boxee, Hulu viewer on the older version, Boxee has made the decision to include RSS feeds instead - and those RSS feeds include Hulu content.  So while it definitely isn't as attractive or robust as the Hulu Application that was "turned off", you can still browse and view Hulu content on Boxee.  Based on this decision, I'm guessing Hulu's main "beef" with the Boxee app was in the way they presented it.  If we see Hulu turn off the RSS feeds from their site, we'll know it was more then that.

Below is a screen-shot of the Hulu RSS Feeds page:

Hulu Feeds

Boxee App Store:

It will be interesting to see what kind of applications end up in the App Store.The App Box shows up in the main menu of Boxee:

 Boxee App Box

Auto Update:

The last thing added to this version was the auto-update.  This means users can update their Boxee software within the software itself without exiting Boxee.


Read More at the Boxee Blog

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Barnes and Noble Picks up Fictionwise - eBooks Surge Forward

Barnes & NobleFictionWise

If you had any doubt whether electronic books were moving in on the traditional paper book you only have to look to the announcement by Barnes and Noble yesterday that they've acquired Fictionwise, the operator of popular eBook stores and  What is Barnes and Noble up to you ask?  You guessed it, they will be launching their own eBook store sometime this year.

Barnes and Noble is obviously moving towards eBooks as a move to keep up with and their Kindle eBook product. and are both great eBook stores so keep your eyes on this one.  I'm betting Amazon is in for a fight and the result should provide a great opportunity for consumers to see some significant price drops in eBook Readers.  Ten years from now we'll be laughing at how so many people "didn't get" the move towards e-Books in the 2000's.

Fictionwise is one of the most popular independent sellers of eBooks.  They support Palm, PocketPC, HieBook, Mobipocket, eBookMan, Adobe, MS Reader and WinCE.  And yes, you can use these books on the Amazon Kindle and view the books in Windows and Mac via a free eReader software they provide.

via TeleRead

Microsoft Announces the Media Center Sports Channel



Are you a Vista Media Center user and a sports fan?  If so Microsoft just announced the perfect online video channel for you.  Today, Microsoft is taking live the new Sports Channel for Windows Media Center.  The channel offeres a wide range of on-demand sports coverage from, Fox Sports, and more.  You'll find breaking sports news, player interviews, fantasy sports tracking and more.  The addition of CBSSports makes the offering an interesting one given the upcoming March Madness NCAA sports coverage.

To check out the new Sports Channel, launch Windows Media Center, scroll down to "Sports" and click on the Sports Channel tile.

According to Microsoft's blog, here's some content you can expect on this channel during March Madness:

  1. Watch complete games in condensed form shortly after the games are completed. (without timeouts, half time, ball retrieval, etc.)- Watch marquee games in the first two rounds, then view all the games after that through to the championship game
  2. Game Highlights (1-2 min)
    - Highlights from every tournament game (63 games total)
    Post Game Interviews (1-2 min)
    - Post game interviews as available
  3. Buzzer Beaters (2-10 min)
    - Last few minutes plus of select games with great finishes

Sounds like a good use of online content by Microsoft.  Lets hope they continue down this path.


via TV on Your PC

Media Gadget Showcase - HTPC Build by Sodarkangel

Our first submission for the GeekTonic Media Gadget Showcase Series is an HTPC build by Sodarkangel.  He was on twitter talking about his setup so I asked if he'd be willing to share it on Geektonic.

NOTE:  This is a guest post by sodarkangel.  This is the first in the GeekTonic Media Gadget Showcase Series.  To read more about how to submit your photos and/or writeups for this series, read this.


I decided a while ago I needed to build a new Home Theater PC (HTPC).  The problem was, Windows 7 was so far away but I couldn't even play HD files on the old one.  I bought a new TV a few weeks ago, a Samsung LN52A850, which I'm extremely happy with.  The new TV spurred the need for something new, so I said screw it, and pieced out my new HTPC and built it.


HTPC Case: Lian Li PC-C32B

Front of Asus Case
I chose this case because it was pretty and had a very good design for being a very very quiet pc.

Motherboard: Asus P5Q-EM

I liked this motherboard because the onboard video not only had hardware HD decoding, but it also had an onboard HDMI port (no more DVI-HDMI, but I use speakers plugged into the PC for now)

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6750

This processor was in my main pc, I upgraded it to a Core 2 Quad.

CPU Cooler: Scythe Ninja Mini 

Huge ninja heatsink (NO FAN) & 2 2250's

Great heat spreading, and I didn't need to put a fan on it.

PSU: Sparkle R-SPI600GLN
Ample power, nice design (unfortunately not modular), but very power conservative.

Memory: G.Skill 4GB (2x2GB)
I choose G.Skill because I've had nothing but great experiences with them, and I work with a lot of PCs at work.

Hard Drive: WD Caviar Green WD10EADS 1TB
Nice and big, and an attempt at low power consumption.

TV Tuners: 2 Hauppauge 2250 cards (pci express)
I chose this card because it takes 1 cable line, and splits it into 2, and each has 2 hybrid tuners, so I have 4 total tuners capable of both HD or Analog.

I had a DVD-RW drive already for it from my main PC, and put a blu-ray in that, because we already have a Blu-Ray player.

Full Build Set on Flickr

The build was simple, I had to monitor heat to make sure it wasn't getting too hot without having a CPU fan, but it was fine, and VERY quiet.  I was very happy with the main build.

The OS install was just as easy, installed Windows 7, very smooth install.

Now the fun began, I added an external Rosewill wireless N USB adapter, and that install went fine, but when it came to the RocketFish bluetooth adapter, that was not so much fun.  It took me quite a while to find out that it wasn't going to be possible to use the normal drivers for it (even via download from the site), but after some time spent I got the built in bluetooth drivers for Windows 7 to work.  The remote that came with one of the Hauppauge 2250s installed without a hitch or any software, it just worked.

Setting up the Windows Media Center was a challenge, only because the guide site must have been down, because I spent a long time working on the set up, and could not get guide data for the life of me.  I came back to it the next morning and went through the setup again and it got the data just fine, but I did spend a couple hours trying to figure it out.

I have it outputting at 1080p resolution to the TV, but I had to increase the size of the things on the screen to the large setting, due to us sitting across a big room from the TV.

I have not yet gotten around to trying to set up my Logitech Harmony 880 for it yet, because I'm not sure if it'll be a challenge or not, so right now I have 2 remotes, but I'll get around to it as soon as I get a chance, but the system performance is great, and everything seems to be working very well.  I'm an old time Beyond TV user, I'm just trying out Windows Media Center, there are things I like, and things I don't, so I'm not sure if I'll stick with it or not, but for now it does what I need.  But this build is VERY VERY quiet and that makes me very happy, my wife loves it as well.

So that's my new HTPC in a nutshell, with a few pictures to boot.  I hope you enjoyed the read.


3320312228_cee882fea9_bLeft: DVD Burner - Right: 1TB WD Hard Drive

Rear of new HTPC

Feel free to ask questions in the comments below.  Thanks to sodarkangel for sharing!  If you'd like to have your setup or media gadgets highlighted, read the guidelines for submission here.

GeekTonic Media Gadget Showcase

Most if not all readers of GeekTonic love their media gadgets.  And many of you have some a lot of them.  To give you an opportunity to share with everyone your collection of media tech and home theater setups, I've decided to start a new series where you, the reader are the star.

Share Your Media Setup

Starting today, GeekTonic will be running a "share your setup" series to include the following types of write-ups:

  • Photos and short summary of media center/HTPC setups, media gadgets in the home etc.  Anything and everything
  • Photos and summaries of different GeekTonic reader's HTPC/Media PC builds
  • Photos of Home Theater setups

What's In It For You?

You may be asking: What do I get for my efforts?  Well I have a few reasons for you:

  • Free Stuff:  For each post in the series at GeekTonic, the submitter will be entered to win one of two $25 gift certificates.  I have a few additional prizes in the works and I'm hoping to get a sponsor or two to make the prizes bigger but for now the $50 donation from me should get things started.  The drawings will be held in November/December and anyone who has made a submission (or two) will be entered to win.
  • Your Name in the Lights: If you're wanting to get some attention - perhaps you'd like a link to your blog, more twitter followers or just want to see your name on GeekTonic - I'll do any or all of these things if your submission makes it to GeekTonic.
  • Share Your Stuff and Help Others:  Let's face it, you have some cool stuff.  Maybe it's just a Zune, iPod or cool Blu-Ray player or possibly you have an elaborate HTPC setup you'd like to share.  No matter what its stuff that all of us would love to see and read about.  And you'll probably be helping others too by showing them what you use for media technology and how you use it.

How to Share Your Stuff:

Entering and sharing is easy. 

GeekTonic Flickr Group

Photos - the GeekTonic Flickr Group:  First off, photos work best for this sort of thing.  Either use your existing flickr account or sign up for a free one.  Then join the GeekTonic Flickr Group here.  Once you're a member of the flickr group, submit the photos into the GeekTonic Flickr Group.  Ideally put a short description or at least a title for each photo so we know what it is.  If your anti-flickr I'll still accept your photos - just send me a note so you can e-mail them to me or send me a link to where you have them available.  Send me a note once you've submitted photo/s to the flickr group so I have a way to contact you.

Write-Ups - Send me a note:  If you have a little something you'd like to say about the photos you've submitted, or tell me more about the setup or gadget, or even how you use it just send that to me in an e-mail.  I use contactify to week out the spammers so send me a note first and I'll respond with my e-mail.


Series Starts Today!

So get out those cameras and start photographing your stuff.  We're anxious to see all of that cool gadget goodness you have to share!  I already have submissions for the first two in the series so you can get an idea of what I'm looking for.  Don't hesitate to start submitting your photos to the GeekTonic flickr group now.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Hulu Blocks Another Third Party App

They giveth, they taketh away.  Not happy with just ticking off all Boxee users, Hulu has moved on to blocking the next software media player, MyMediaPlayer using Hulu to stream online video content.


MyMediaPlayer is an Adobe Air app that gives it's users the ability to view's library of TV shows and movies in fullscreen TV mode.  MyMediaPlayer is open source and leaves all Hulu content and ads intact.  It was really a simple alternative interface to view Hulu content.

Unfortunately Hulu seems to be on the warpath to scratch out any third party apps that use Hulu content to allow the viewing of that content from anything other than the stadard Hulu Browser.

The developer of MyMediaPlayer wrote an open letter to Hulu outlining the reasons Hulu should reconsider the rejection of his player.  Boxee who recently was asked to block the Hulu content on their HTPC app are also appealing to Hulu, but I seriously doubt we'll see any progress on this front as Hulu seems to have been "forced into a box" by it's owners, CBS and Fox who are protecting their cable network business model (supposedly provides over 49% of their revenues).

So for now, I would put little hope in seeing Hulu survive in any third party app going forward.  That will affect many Media Center users, SageTV users, XBMC users, DivX Connected users and even PlayOn.  It looks like its just a matter of time before the backward-looking media execs kill off any progress made on the Hulu App front.  Sad, but true.


Blockbuster Rumors of Bankruptcy - The End is Near

After reports began to surface yesterday that Blockbuster was hiring an outside firm to discuss the possibility of a bankruptcy filing, their stock plummeted over 75% before the market close.  Later that day, reports (CNN Money) came out that Blockbuster hired Kirkland & Ellis for "assistance with our ongoing finance and capital raising initiative" according to the Blockbuster spokesperson Karen Raskopf.

My Take:

Having experienced a company going through bankruptcy I see this as the standard "we are not filing for bankruptcy" speech that really means: "we don't want to file for bankruptcy and are looking for a way out, but are at the point where we have to plan for it in case the banks don't give us another lifeline (loan covenant revisions).  All bankruptcy firms such as Kirkland & Ellis look for alternatives to Bankruptcy, but you don't hire them unless you're on the brink.

Blockbuster has become mostly irrelevant in the movie rental market with steep competition from Netflix, Redbox and other movie vending services, and even online streaming.  In the current market environment, I'm betting that Blockbuster has very little time left before bankruptcy.  Time will tell.

VidaBox Launches Entry Level Media Server

Vidabox announced the launch of the new RoomClient: SE system, an entry-level, Windows Vista-based media server.  The new media server is targeted at the entry-level customer with a starting price of $2,248.

Vidabox RoomClient


Since I just reviewed the VidaBox Media Center keyboard, this one caught my eye.  VidaBox focuses on the high-end customer and installer market, but have added this server/extender device as a less expensive option (for that market).


From the Press Release:

Starting at $2248, the RoomClient:SE stores movies, pictures, music, and more for on-demand access via an on-screen, remote controlled interface.  Cover art from movies and music titles are automatically downloaded along with every archival.  Complete with 1080p upscaling and full Dolby Digital and DTS support, it's designed to deliver a stunning entertainment experience without compromising quality.

The RoomClient: SE server is basically a pre-packaged Home Theater PC based on Vista Media Center with the following specs:

  • TV Tuner:  a single analog and single digital TV tuner
  • Storage: 1TB hard drive (upgradable)
  • MB: Intel Mobile 750
  • Memory: 2GB DDR2-800MHz
  • Optical Drive: Dual layer DVD+-RW
  • Video Out:  DVI, HDMI (with DVI adapter), Component, VGA and S-Video
  • LAN: Gigabit
  • Audio: Optical and coax SPDIF, 3.5mm analog 7.1 line-out
  • Built in card reader
  • Firewire 1394 port

Vidabox RoomClient back

The RoomClient: SE system is targeted at the integrator and tech-savvy customer as an entry-level HTPC in a compact, but powerful package.  For the person who wants to buy the pre-configured all-in-one Media Center package this device is certainly worth a look.  The box is small (smaller than a shoebox) but looks great.  I sent a note to the VidaBox rep to see if there is an upgrade path for Windows 7.


Read more about the new VidaBox Media Server at VidaBox